Each month I give my verdict on who has shown the world an interesting and distinctive brand. My latest personal brand of the month goes to…
Prince Harry and the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge
This month’s brand of the month is actually a co-brand…Prince Harry and Prince William, packaged with Kate Middleton. In many ways, the personal brands of Royals are defined for them; controlled, molded and managed due to the nature of their positions (and literally being “born into their brands”). However, this month, Harry, William and Kate have shown us how they have taken ownership of their brands to shape them in a very personal and impactful way.
We’ve seen the Princes, along with the Duchess of Cambridge, steadily building their images as mental health advocates recently, however this month, they have truly stepped into the spotlight.
The Royals at a relay race, promoting their charity Heads Together,
at the Queen Elizabeth II Park in London. Photo: REUTERS/Alastair Grant/Pool
The Duke and Duchess and Prince Harry have spearheaded the Heads Together campaign, in partnership with eight leading mental health charities that tackle stigma, raise awareness, and provide vital help for people with mental health challenges. Their mission aims “to change the national conversation on mental health and well-being”. Heads Together is the Charity of the Year for the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon.
Prince Harry’s commitment to challenging stigma and getting people talking about their own mental health prompted him to be interviewed earlier this month by Byrony Gordon on her new “Mad World” podcast, in which high-profile guests open up about their mental health experiences. In the interview, the 32-year old Prince disclosed that he spent nearly 20 years “not thinking” about the death of his mother, and finally sought counselling after experiencing two years of “total chaos” and being “very close to a complete breakdown” on numerous occasions.
This summer is the 20th anniversary of their mother Diana’s death in a car crash in Paris. Prince William was 15-years-old and Harry, 12.
Princes William and Harry at their mother’s funeral. Credit: PA
Harry further revealed that talking about his emotions better enabled him to empathise with others who had been similarly impacted by emotional and mental health issues. He vowed that he would put “blood, sweat and tears” into making a difference for others. “The experience I have had is that once you start talking about it, you realise that actually you’re part of quite a big club,” he shared.
Harry’s “inner brand” – his authenticity, passion, purpose, values and vision – came shining through during the interview. While Harry admitted that he was nervous about the podcast, he recognized that by sharing his own personal experiences, he would encourage others to speak up. In doing so, he used his personal brand in a very powerful way. Indeed, Harry’s revelation has been well received, including by Prime Minister Theresa May, who said his voice would help “smash the stigma around mental health”.
Harry as a boy with Diana Princess of Whales. Credit: PA
As a psychologist, I hardly think Harry’s disclosure should be headline news. But here in the UK, where the famously British “stiff upper lip” prevails and stigma surrounding mental health is alive and well, it is.
However, the Royals are coming together – using their strong co-branding – with the goal of creating sea-change in the attitude of the British public. Reflecting upon her interview with Harry, Byrony shared: “It has always been a sign of strength and dignity to keep it all inside, and our Royal family have always been the embodiment of that, God bless them. But Prince Harry just redefined strength and dignity for a new generation.”
Prince William has also been quite vocal about a much-needed shift in the stoic British sentiment where it can be harmful. In an interview for charity publication CALMzine, produced by the Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm), the Duke shared: “There may be a time and a place for the ‘stiff upper lip’, but not at the expense of your health.” He warned that staying silent about mental health issues is “killing people”. He further shared his vision of his children growing up being able to express their feelings and talk about their emotions. Prince William has said the death of his mother spurred him on to tackle the issue of mental health.
Prince William encouraged his brother Harry to seek counselling. Credit: PA
William also referred to a recent Channel 4 interview with Stormzy, in which the rapper spoke openly about his previous struggle with depression. The Duke shared that he hoped young men would see the interview as “sign of strength to talk about and look after your mind as well as your body”.
The Heads Together campaign have marshaled the support of celebrities who have spoken out about their own mental health in a campaign video series, including actor Stephen Fry, rapper Professor Green and ex-England cricket captain Freddie Flintoff.
At the launch of the Heads Together campaign on mental health. Photo:Getty
Lady Gaga has also joined their campaign by recording a transatlantic “Factime” video with William. In the video, they chat about the importance of speaking out about mental health issues, and liken taking care of one’s mental health to caring for one’s physical health. Prince William praises Gaga for her “incredibly moving and very brave” open letter about her own previous struggles with mental health issues. The video, which has been viewed by thousands and posted on the Royal Family Facebook Page, shows a very genuine side to both Gaga and the Duke.
The Royal trio have also backed the two-part BBC documentary “Mind over Marathon”, which aired last week about a group of runners affected by mental health issues as they prepare for the London Marathon.
Speaking at the preview screening last week, William stated that the more “influential and very important” people come forward and share their “issues and their battles” the better. He goes on to share his vision: “And we need to make mental health normal, we need to treat it the same way we treat physical health, it has to be seen in the same way”.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry gave a royal send-off to the Heads Together runners at the starting line of Sunday’s London Marathon. They later surprised runners on the sidelines by handing out water, cheering them on, and parting with royal tradition of polite curtsies, bows and formal handshakes by giving high fives and hugs. They also congratulated astonished runners at the finish line, handing out medals.
Cheering on runners at the 2017 London Marathon. Photo: Matt Dunham
Earlier this week, William and Harry presented an award in memory of their mother at a ceremony in St James’s Palace. However, I think their recent efforts are quite possibly the greatest tribute they could give to their mum.
You can hear William’s interview on Byrony Gordon’s Mad World here: